Penne Arrabbiata with Chickpeas

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Ready in about 20 minutes, this spicy penne arrabbiata is my take on the Italian classic with the addition of chickpeas for a little variety with the noodles. Red pepper flakes are an easy way to add fiery heat to this sauce made with canned tomatoes, onions, garlic and olive oil.

For similar recipes, try my Basic Tomato Sauce with canned tomatoes or my Fresh Tomato Sauce with Roma tomatoes.

Penne arrabbiata in a small bowl.

Why You’ll Love This Recipe

It’s a simple way to change up basic tomato sauce. One of the many reasons to love tomato sauce is because you can put it to use in different ways like pasta, pizza and even for dipping. You can never go wrong with classic marinara, but with red pepper flakes you can add some spice.

The sauce is made with mostly pantry ingredients. Canned tomatoes, olive oil, garlic and onions are typical things that you probably have stocked in your kitchen and that goes for a box of pasta too. With this recipe the odds are pretty good that it won’t require a trip to the grocery.

This pasta dish requires minimal prep work.  All you have to do is chop an onion and a mince a few garlic cloves. The rest of the recipe involves pouring ingredients into the pan and sautéing and simmering pasta in a pot. The sauce cooks in 20 minutes. You can multitask and make the pasta at the same time as the sauce.

What is Arrabbiata Sauce?

Hailing from Rome, Italy, this is a special version of tomato sauce that’s signature is its spicy flavor. Arrabbiata means “angry” in Italian as a nod to the red chili peppers that give it a serious kick. It’s easy to make and will give you something different for your next tomato-based pasta dish.

The Ingredients

Ingredients including penne, chickpeas, canned tomatoes, garlic, olive oil and spices.

This is what you need:

  • Tomatoes: The base of the sauce is a big can of crushed tomatoes, which are somewhere between diced tomatoes and tomato puree in texture. They are already the ideal consistency for sauce straight out of the can.
  • Onions: The recipe starts with sautéing chopped onions until they become soft and translucent.
  • Garlic: I include 3 minced garlic cloves. Given the amount of sauce in the recipe, this doesn’t make it overly garlicky.
  • Red pepper flakes are how you add the heat. Stir in 1 to 1-1/2 teaspoons depending how spicy you want it to turn out.
  • Olive oil: For the best taste, use extra virgin olive oil.
  • Parmesan: Sprinkle on grated Parmesan once the penne is ready. If you want it to be vegan, use nutritional yeast instead.
  • Parsley: Once I divide the pasta into serving bowls or onto plates, I garnish it with chopped fresh parsley. If you have fresh basil, you can use that too.
  • Salt & pepper are important to season the sauce in addition to the red pepper flakes.
  • Pasta: My go-to is penne, but you can also use rigatoni or another shape with ridges. Depending on your preference, you can also use chickpea noodles or another alternative pasta.
  • Chickpeas: Drain and rinse the canned chickpeas before you simmer them with the crushed tomatoes.

Variations

Skip the chickpeas and use all pasta. If you prefer to keep the recipe more classic, increase the amount of penne pasta to 10 ounces.

Add greens like kale or spinach. When you stir in the pasta, you can also include baby spinach or chopped kale. The heat from the sauce will gently wilt the leaves.

How To Make Penne Arrabbiata

1. Heat the oil in a large skillet or sauté pan.

2. Sauté the onions. Give them a few minutes to become soft.

Olive oil in saute pan. Onions sauteing in pan.

3. Stir in the aromatics including the garlic, red pepper flakes, salt and pepper. The onions will quickly become fragrant.

4. Pour in the tomatoes and chickpeas.

Minced garlic and spiced stirred into sauteed onions. Tomatoes and chickpeas poured into pan.

5. Simmer the sauce for 15-18 minutes to thicken.

6. Cook the penne in a large pot of boiling salted water until a minute before it is al dente. Just refer to the recommended cook time on the package and subtract 1 minute. This is because you finish cooking the noodles in the sauce. Reserve 1/2 cup pasta cooking water. You can cook the pasta while the sauce simmers.

Sauce simmering. Pasta cooking in separate pot.

7. Stir the pasta and the reserved cooking water into the sauce. Simmer for a minute.

8. Divide into bowls and top with parsley and Parmesan.

Pasta and chickpeas stirred into tomato sauce. Penne arrabbiata garnished with parsley and Parmesan.

What to Serve with Penne all’Arrabbiata

This is a fantastic simple dinner recipe for a weeknight or a weekend. Serve it with an Arugula Salad with Lemon Vinaigrette, Brussels Sprout Caesar Salad or Green Bean Tomato Olive Salad. If you’re looking for a veggie side try Sautéed Broccolini, Roasted Crispy Brussels Sprouts or Roasted Parmesan Garlic Asparagus.

Leftovers & Storage

Store leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge up to 3 days. You can warm them in the microwave or in a skillet over low heat. The pasta will lose its al dente bite the longer you keep the leftovers.

Recipe Tips

You can make the sauce in advance. Keep it in the refrigerator. Then when you’re ready, warm the sauce in a skillet over low heat while you cook the pasta.

It is up to you how spicy you want the sauce. I find that 1 teaspoon gives the arrabbiata a buzzy base level of heat. If you have a high tolerance for spicy food, you can add more.

Penne is not your only option for pasta shape. You can make rigatoni arrabbiata too. Pastas with ridges are great because they hold onto the sauce.

FAQs

What is the difference between arrabbiata sauce and marinara sauce?

Both are tomato sauces with garlic, olive oil, salt and pepper. Arrabbiata has red pepper flakes to make it spicy unlike marinara.

Is arrabbiata sauce vegan?

Yes, this sauce is vegan. Just skip garnishing your pasta with Parmesan cheese or use nutritional yeast instead.

What does arrabbiata sauce taste like?

This sauce is basically a spicy version of classic tomato sauce.

Did you try this spicy tomato pasta recipe? Please leave a rating and comment below. Thanks!

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Penne Arrabbiata Recipe

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Prep: 5 minutes
Cook: 20 minutes
Total: 25 minutes
Servings: 4
This easy arrabbiata sauce with canned tomatoes, garlic and red pepper flakes is spicy and has both pasta and chickpeas. It’s just what you need for a hearty vegetarian meal.

Ingredients 

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 small white onion roughly chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves minced
  • 1 to 1-1/2 teaspoons red pepper flakes
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1-28 ounce can crushed tomatoes
  • 1-14.5 ounce can chickpeas drained and rinsed
  • 8 ounces penne
  • Chopped parsley for serving
  • Grated Parmesan for serving

Instructions 

  • Heat the oil in a large sauté pan over medium high heat.
  • Sauté the onions until they start to soften and turn translucent, about 3-4 minutes.
  • Stir in the garlic, red pepper flakes, salt and pepper. Continue cooking for 30 seconds – 1 minute until fragrant.
  • Add the tomatoes and chickpeas. Simmer for 15-18 minutes until the sauce has thickened and the chickpeas have softened a bit.
  • Cook the penne in salted boiling water until al dente according to package instructions. You can cook the pasta while the sauce simmers. Save 1/2 cup pasta cooking water.
  • Use a slotted spoon to transfer the penne to the tomato sauce. Pour in the reserved pasta water. Simmer on low to medium heat for 1 minute, stirring until the pasta and chickpeas are well combined with the sauce.
  • Divide the penne into bowls and garnish with chopped parsley and Parmesan cheese.

Notes

If you want to leave out the chickpeas, increase the pasta amount to 10 ounces.
You can add a handful of baby spinach or chopped kale when you stir in the pasta and chickpeas. The heat from the sauce will wilt the greens.
Keep leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge up to 3 days. Warm them in the microwave or in a skillet over low heat. The pasta will lose its al dente bite the longer you store the leftovers.
The sauce can be made 2 days advance. Keep it in the refrigerator. Then when you’re ready, warm the sauce in a pan over low heat while you cook the pasta.

Nutrition

Calories: 410kcal | Carbohydrates: 74g | Protein: 16g | Fat: 7g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 2g | Monounsaturated Fat: 3g | Sodium: 1135mg | Potassium: 909mg | Fiber: 11g | Sugar: 11g | Vitamin A: 455IU | Vitamin C: 21mg | Calcium: 127mg | Iron: 5mg

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

Additional Info

Course: Pasta
Cuisine: Italian
Did you make this recipe?Mention @lastingredient on Instagram and tag it #lastingredient!

Originally published February 25, 2019. Updated: January 5, 2023.


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Hi, I'm Paige.

Welcome to Last Ingredient where you will find simple seasonal recipes with plenty of fruits and vegetables, all for the home cook.

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